Garbage Can Potatoes

Compost Potatoes

I always get a kick out of watching all sorts of plants germinate and start to grow in my various vermicomposting bins and beds. I always feel badly for the ones that pop up in my dark enclosed bins since they always look so spindly and pitiful. In my outdoor systems it can actually get a bit annoying plucking all the seedling tomatoes etc etc out – well, the ones I don’t allow to grow, that is (see “Compost Bin Tomatoes“).

Quite some time ago, I noticed some potatoes sprouting in one of the plastic garbage cans I keep down in my basement. Of course, I’m not just talking about any old garbage cans here – these are bins containing older worm compost/habitat material.

As per usual, I didn’t give it too much thought – assuming the spud sprouts would simply end up in the “spindly and pitiful” category mentioned above.

Well ok, they ARE pretty spindly, but as you can see they’ve continued to grow up towards the light (the cans have other bins etc sitting on top of them, so not all that much light shining in), and are now even sprouting some leaves! I’m not all that optimistic that I’ll end up with a potato crop or anything (haha), but it’s still pretty cool!

I’d be interested to hear from others re: the sorts of plants that have popped up in your composting/vermicomposting systems!

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    • Chuck Haynes
    • February 11, 2010

    I had the same experience with sweet potatoes. I didn’t let them continue. Maybe I should have.

  1. i don’t usually have many sprouts until after I remove the vermicompost from my bin and let it dry. The bottom layer of my Can of Worms always seem to be very wet.

    I say usually because during the last two weeks dozens of squash/gourd seeds have germinated in my top layer. It caught me off guard to see so many sprouting.

    Based on the ratio cited by the strawberry growers in your last article, I would suspect that your potato plant will not develop optimally until more inert material is added to the growing medium. It looks like too much of a good thing. If you think about it, nutrients and the good microbes that allow plants to process nutrients (in vermicompost) are like light and water. Plants need a break from both in order to rest and breath.

    So the theory playing out, will the potato plant use up enough of the richness in the surrounding vemicompost so that it becomes more inert. In other words, will the plant change its environment to enable better growing conditions. LOL – it sounds like a soap opera plot…As The Worm Bin Turns, or the Squirm and the Restless.

    • Cyndi from Indiana
    • February 22, 2010

    I had the same thing happen with carrots and parsnips this winter. Since I’m new to vermiculture I was surprised and excited by this. I plan to create some starts for my garden this way this spring since they looked healthier than the starts we created in our kitchen window last year. I was also thinking about starting some seeds in the bin. Would this work? I watched a video on permaculture in Hawaii where they start their seeds in worm casting blocks and wondered about germinating straight in the bin.

    • Bentley
    • February 23, 2010

    Hi Cyndi,
    I think you could have decent success getting seeds to germinate in a worm bin, as long as it isn’t TOO loaded with worms and/or you are not adding new materials all the time (since this would obviously disturb the seedlings). You would likely need to monitor the sprouts fairly closely as well – since once they were up they would likely shoot upwards pretty quickly in an effort to reach any light that might be shining in (through air holes etc)

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